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Beth Hamidrash Hagodol (Crawford Street Shul) (Roxbury, Boston, Mass.) Records

 Collection
Identifier: I-239

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains the business and activity records of Beth Hamidrash Hagodol, including correspondence, financial records, ledgers, yearbooks, souvenir books, and meeting minutes. Correspondence, receipts, and a ledger for the Rabbi Zuber Memorial Fund are included in this collection. The collection contains correspondence of Rabbi Benjamin Grossman, congregation lay leaders Meyer Cressilov and Louis Berlin, and business records of the Yavneh Hebrew School.

Dates

  • undated, 1922-1924, 1933-1973

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is in English and Hebrew.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for researcher use. Please contact us to request access or to make an appointment to view this collection at jhcreference@nehgs.org.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of this collection. For more information contact jhcreference@nehgs.org.

Historical Note

The Orthodox synagogue, Beth Hamidrash Hagodol (known colloquially as the Crawford Street Shul), was founded in 1913 in a small house on Harold Street in Roxbury, Massachusetts, in response to the growing number of Orthodox Jews moving to Roxbury. A charter for the house of worship was granted from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on September 26, 1913. Among its founding members were Victor Kaufman, Philip Schaffer, John Druker, Joseph Simon, Benjamin Snider, Harris Poorvu, Samuel Quint, Morris Miller, Hyman Cohen, Samuel Simon, and Samuel Goldman. In 1915, two years after the charter was granted, the cornerstone of the synagogue was placed at 105 Crawford Street in the Elm Hill District of Roxbury.

At their fifth anniversary, in 1918, the synagogue was established enough to include Lieutenant Governor Calvin Coolidge, Speaker Channing Cox, and Congressman James A. Gallivan in their flag raising ceremony. By the early 1920s, the congregation had 500 families and was considered to be a leader amongst suburban synagogues; an Orthodox synagogue that unified the modern American Jew with the traditional European Jew. Like many other synagogues, they had a Sisterhood (established in 1914), Men’s Club, Bar Mitzvah Club, Senior Study Circle, and Junior Council.

The congregation also elected Louis M. Epstein as their first Rabbi in 1918. By 1925, dissatisfied by the lack of cooperation within his congregation, Rabbi Epstein resigned and moved to Kehillath Israel in Brookline. In the years following Epstein’s departure, the congregation severed its ties to the Conservative movement, dismantling Friday night services, choirs, youth activities, hymnals and family pews. They also withdrew their membership from the United Synagogue. By the 1930s, the congregation was no longer served by a Rabbi who graduated from the Jewish Theological Seminary or belonged to the Rabbinical Assembly. It also took several years for the congregation to name a new Rabbi, and although his tenure is uncertain, William Drazin served for five years. By 1940, Rabbi Benjamin Grossman was leading the congregation, with Joshua Goldberg serving as cantor. In 1948, the synagogue hired an Assistant Rabbi, Jacob Zuber. On December 31, 1952, Rabbi Zuber was robbed and beaten in Horatio Harris Park in Roxbury, Massachusetts. The next day, he died as a result of his injuries. A fund for the Rabbi’s family was established by three of the leading rabbis in the Boston area: Joseph Shubow, President of the Rabbinical Association, Mordecai Savitsky of Vaad Ha-Rabanim and Charles Weinberg of the Orthodox Rabbinical Council, and raised several thousand dollars.

The Congregation’s Yavneh Hebrew School was a six-year program that provided comprehensive Jewish education for children. A Sunday school for younger children was organized to prepare them for the Hebrew School. Funded largely through the combined efforts of the Sisterhood and later, Brotherhood, the school was organized in the early years of the synagogue, and the building was renovated in 1922.

A cemetery was also established within ten years of the synagogue’s founding. Six acres of land were purchased on Baker Street in West Roxbury on March 24, 1925. Originally known as the Crawford Street Memorial Park Cemetery, it merged with the Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts on September 27, 2006.

An exact date of the dissolution of Beth Hamidrash Hagodol is unknown; however, records indicate it was most likely sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s.

References

  1. Materials from the collection.
  2. “Crawford Street Memorial Park Cemetery Merges with JCAM,” from JCAM in the News, October 2, 2006. /www.jcam.org/Pages/About_JCAM/news_jcam/061001_JCAMrelease.htm>. Accessed April 12, 2012.
  3. Sarna, Jonathan D. and Ellen Smith. The Jews of Boston. Boston: Combined Jewish Philanthropies, 1995.

Chronology

1913
Beth Hamidrash Hagodol founded.
September 26, 1913
A charter from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is granted.
August 22, 1914
Sisterhood organized.
1915
Cornerstone of the synagogue placed at 105 Crawford Street.
1918
Rabbi Louis M. Epstein elected as the first Rabbi of Beth Hamidrash Hagodol.
March 4, 1925
Synagogue purchases 6 acres of land on Baker Street in West Roxbury for a cemetery.
1928
Burning of the mortgage.
1938
Abraham Close elected President of the Congregation.
1948/1949
Rabbi Jacob Zuber joins the congregation.
January 1, 1953
Assistant Rabbi Jacob Zuber succumbs to injuries from a mugging.
September 27, 2006
Cemetery merges with the Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts.

Extent

5.25 linear feet (5 document boxes, 1 manuscript box)

Abstract

Beth Hamidrash Hagodol (known colloquially as the Crawford Street Shul), was founded in 1913 in a small house on Harold Street in Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts. In 1915, the cornerstone of the synagogue was placed at 105 Crawford Street in the Elm Hill District of Roxbury. The congregation elected Louis M. Epstein as their first Rabbi in 1918. This collection contains the business, activity and social records of Beth Hamidrash Hagodol, including correspondence, financial records, ledgers, yearbooks, souvenir books, and meeting minutes.

Physical Location

Located in Boston, Mass.

Acquisition Information

Acquisition information unknown.

Processing Information

Processed by Stephanie Call, 2012
Title
Beth Hamidrash Hagodol (Crawford Street Shul) (Roxbury, Boston, Mass.) Records, I-239
Author
Processed by Stephanie Call
Date
2012

Repository Details

Part of the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at New England Historic Genealogical Society Repository

Contact:
99-101 Newbury Street
Boston MA 02116 United States
617-226-1245